VANS SLIP-ON PRO

Neither underground nor mainstream.
Genki's a beast out of Okinawa who's got a distinct way of making shit done.
──GENKI SUNAGAWA

2020.04.19
06988

Film_Jima, TK
Edit_TK
Photo_Anthony Acosta
Special thanks_MxMxM Skateboards, Converse Skateboarding, FTC

[JAPANESE / ENGLISH]

VHSMAG (V): Let's start from the time you started skating.

Genki Sunagawa (G): My classmate's older brother had this local skate video called ing... and he told me that our apartment is in it. He asked me to watch it together but I didn't believe him at first because he was known as a big liar. So we watched it and it turned out to be true. That got me interested and I started skating. I think I was in seventh grade.

V: What was the scene in Okinawa like back in the day?

G: I'm from Ginowan and as far as I know we didn't have any skate park. I was just skating with my buddies in the back of our apartment. My friend's dad was one of the members of the co-op and let us skate until 6pm. There were guys skating at a gas station in the next town and Kinakobo was from another town.

V: So did you guys know pretty much every skater in Okinawa? Was the community tight?

G: We were all skating at our local spots at first so we'd only see other skaters at contests. We're basically all shy and don't really get out from our local areas. We pretty much knew everyone but it was just what's up kinda thing.

V: A lot of skaters from Okinawa left their hometown. Kinakobo, Yoshiaki Nagado, Gou Miyagi... How did you guys meet them?

G: I met all of them when I was in high school. I met Yoshiaki through Shigeta Iha, he was making a skate video called Eighty-Seven and he offered me to film a part. Kinakobo too, I started hanging out with him through filming for ing...

V: You met them through video project, huh?

G: Yes, by the way Gou Miyagi was one of the instructors at a skate school at Ginowan city hall.

V: He was teaching skating? That's a surprise.

G: Well... He wasn't really... I guess he was just there... (laughs). Anyway, I started talking with him from there.

V: Who were you influences? I mean, you're far away from mainstream skating. I wanted to know how you ended up really unique.

G: There was this skater name Kotaro Yuri and he was doing grab tricks in ing... I got influenced by that at first. I guess that was the start. Then I got influenced by Jason Adams. He was doing wallie boardslides and slappies in his part in Label Kills. That was the first time I ever saw those kind of tricks. I got blown away. After that I'd watch Chris Haslam and Danny Gonzalez...

V: You don't like being normal?

G: Yes, I guess so. But I wanted to be normal once in high school.

V: You had that phase, huh?

G: Well... Of course I like weird tricks but along the way I wanted normal tricks too. At that time I was into PJ Ladd. I'd watch Flip videos and that made me want to practice switch. I started practicing normal tricks from there.

V: You can pretty much do anything now because of that phase then.

G: I guess, I can pretty much skate anywhere and have fun.

V: How about now? Are you completely into doing original tricks?

G: I'd like to do that as long as I can think of something new. But I've done so many that it's hard to come up with one now.

V: You've done too much (laughs). What's one of your favorite original tricks?

G: I guess this drop at Fort Miley. I first did that in high school and when I was at Fort Miley, I dropped my board on the other side of the rail. When I came back with my board and stepped over the rail, that drop popped up in my mind.

Video_Katsumi Minami

V: What's your first tattoo?

G: The star on my shoulder that I got when I turned 20. I've always wanted to get tattoo all over my body. I was into motocross from kindergarten to fourth grade. I'd watch motocross videos and there were guys with tattoos. So I've always wanted to get it when I get older.

V: You waited until you got older, you didn't just go for it?

G: There's this law that you can't get tattoo until you turn 18 or something. Some studio asks for permission from one of your parents. That's a pain in the ass so I decided to wait until 20. I saved up money and got my first one. The pain wasn't that bad so I kept getting it.

V: Did your parents say anything when you first showed them your tattoo?

G: I told them before getting it so it was good.

V: What about for the one on your eyebrow?

G: Well, they told me no more the other day but it doesn't really make a difference now...

V: You got that right. Which one's your favorite?

G: Let me see. The color's faded but the deformed Statue of Liberty on my right leg. Also Chucky on my chest.

V: Do people get scared of your tattoos?

G: Some people get surprised but I had a lucky incident once. It was like 11 years ago but a man came up to me when I was waiting in line at McDonald's. He was in his 60s and he said, "Finally found one!!" I didn't think I knew him so I asked, "Have we met?" and he was like, "No, first time!" It turned out that he just came back from America where he lived for years. He was sad that Japanese people looked really normal, no character at all. Then there I was covered with tattoos. He told me, "Sorry, but I couldn't help it, I just had to talk to you. Let me buy you a combo meal." That was random and lucky.

V: That's nice (laughs). Who was your first sponsor?

G: My first sponsor was MxMxM. I got on Vans and Creature around the same time. I was already living in Tokyo.

V: When did you move to Tokyo?

G: I came to Tokyo when I turned 20, in mid February. That was right after I got my second tattoo. In Okinawa I was working at my parent's plumbing company and I wanted to go to Tokyo to skate, get sponsored and film. Then my mom got mad, like "Work and skateboarding, which is more important!?" I told her both and she got even madder. She told me not to come back. I moved to Tokyo with 130,000 yen.

V: Where did you live in Tokyo?

G: I was living at Shigeta's place for a month. After that I was living at work's dorm, saved up money and got my place once but crashed at my friends' places for a long time.

V: You were living in the notorious Flower House too.

G: Oh yes, that apartment in Kokubunji. I lived there for two years... it was a total chaos. We were lucky that we never got complaints from the neighbors. The walls were super thin and you can hear everything. When Kinakobo came to stay, TK would play guitar and sing super loud to get him up late at night. I was living there with TK and Yoshiaki. We were playing Call of Duty and would scream all night. We never got complaints though. Our neighbors were old so maybe they couldn't even hear us.

V: You and Yoshiaki are now relatives, right?

G: His cousin and my relative got married. We're in the same family tree, I guess. I went to his wedding and gave a speech. I couldn't think of anything touching to say so I tried to make people laugh. It went well. The bride's friend gave a speech after mine and heard she had trouble dealing with the awkward vibe. I got mine over with and went out for a smoke so I had no idea... I made everyone laugh (laughs).

That was a big thing for me. I've always wanted a board.

V: You had a pro board from MxMxM in 2016.

G: That was a big thing for me. I've always wanted a board but I was already 29 or 30 so I thought it'll never happen. My board sponsor could change but I'd probably wouldn't be able to get a board out.


 

V: Let's talk about your new part. When did you start filming?

G: There was a talk of working on a new DVD after MxMxM's MOSHIMOSH but it was hard to get all the team together. Jima has a family and couldn't really go filming often. So the plan was whenever any of the riders complete their part, we'll just get them up online. It's been four or five years since I started filming but I had pro board promo video and Singapore tour video in between.



 

V: You filmed in LA too, right?

G: Spots in LA were amazing. It was like, "How can they do that here!?" I went to a spot where Andrew Allen was skating and it was unbelievable. I'd watch his part the night before and figure out what to try but most of the time I couldn't even get close. So I had to compromise and try different trick, and that even took a long time. The spots were hard.

V: Which trick are you most stoked to get?

G: The one that took the longest was the one I filmed in LA. There's this DIY wall spot at a freeway exit and I did a slash 5-0 grab out. I almost gave up many times in the process. I think it took about two hours. I landed wall ride grab out but couldn't get my truck to grind. Anthony Acosta was there and he told me no one's ever grinded it so I just had to keep trying. Most of the time I can tell if I can landed it if I tried bunch of times but that spot was different. I'm glad I pulled it off.

V: So you battled at the LA spot. How do you approach spots on the daily basis?

G: If it's possible, I try to charge spots where no one's touched before or try a trick that's never been done. That's the best. Other than that, I just do whatever comes to mind. When I film, I can tell if I can land the trick or not. If it's a manual trick, I can land it if I have enough time but I get anxious when I'm filming lines. I feel good the first 15 minutes, then I start struggling, and just before I feel like giving up, a good wave comes back again. So when I'm struggling with a trick, I usually wait until that wave comes. If it's something I really want, I try not to give up.

V: What was it like for this part?

G: I was thinking how many parts I've put out so far. I realized this is my seventh one. When you put out seven parts, it's hard to come up with a new trick (laughs). So it was hard in that sense... Both trick and spot selection were hard. I mean, it'd be best if I could do NBD at a famous spot but that's becoming really difficult too.

V: That slash 5-0 in LA was one of them. By the way, does it take a long time for you to open up to people?

G: It always take time. I can't really talk when there's too many people. I tend to listen in that situation. I'm not really good at working in groups either... Filming session is different though. When I'm filming hammer it's better if there's many people around. It gets me hyped. But lines and manuals can take a long time so I prefer to try it alone. You can't try hammer for a long time anyways (laughs).

I want to be able to do every single trick.

V: What's your ideal kind of skater?

G: A skater who can say "I don't have one," when asked about a trick you suck at. But I really suck at kickflip and heelflip. There are skaters who suck at one of them but I suck at both. I can land them but I only do them in game of s.k.a.t.e. But even though I suck at them, I want to be able to do every single trick. I also want to be a skater that can skate anywhere.

V: Okay, now what's next?

G: I want to film three more parts. If I could do that I'll have ten parts total. Right now it's lucky seven but I want ten.

V: Then you need to come up with more new tricks. Say something funny to wrap up the interview.

G: Yoshiaki said that Kinakobo was over with Tenga in his interview. Actually when he was into Tenga Egg, he was using the same one over and over. So I asked him if he was still reusing it, he told me this. "Of course. I finally penetrated it."

 

Genki Sunagawa
@gxnxk

Date of birth :
April 19, 1987

Blood type :
A

Birthplace :
Okinawa

Sponsors :
MxMxM Skateboards, Converse Skateboarding, FTC, Ace, Spitfire, Sabre, Stance, Highsox

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